At Mass this weekend, all three readings have the same theme: God’s forgiveness. In the first reading, the prophet Nathan confronted King David. David recently had done a couple of rather nasty things. First, he committed adultery; then, in an attempt to cover it up, he committed murder.
When David humbly confessed his sins, Nathan said, “The Lord on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die.”
In the second reading, from his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul explained that we cannot earn God’s love. However, if we trust in God’s love through faith, we will be justified.
Finally, in the gospel reading, Jesus was dining at the home of a prominent Pharisee named Simon. As they ate, a sinful women came into the dining room, probably right in the middle of their Buffalo wing appetizers, and she went over to Jesus. The woman began to weep, and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears.
The other dinner guests were horrified. “If this man were a prophet,” Simon said to himself regarding Jesus, “he would know…that she is a sinner.”
Jesus, of course, quickly turned the tables on the self-righteous Pharisee. He pointed out that the sinful woman had treated Jesus much more graciously than had Simon. Jesus then said, “So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven because she has shown great love.”
The main lesson this week is God’s love and forgiveness. No matter how badly we’ve sinned, no matter how selfishly and cruel we’ve behaved, if we genuinely repent and ask for forgiveness, God will forgive us. Wow, how great is that?
There is, however, a secondary lesson this week that we should not overlook. Although God most certainly forgives us of our sins, when we do sin, very often there are severe consequences. In the first reading, God forgave David. But speaking through the prophet Nathan, God also said, “Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house.”
David’s sins had earthly consequences, and in fact from that time on, his family was a mess. There were hatreds and betrayals and murders for many generations after David. The culmination came when the entire kingdom was torn in two, split into the Northern kingdom of Israel and the Southern kingdom of Judah. From the moment David committed those terrible sins, there was no peace in his life or in the lives of his descendants.
In our lives, the same principle holds true. If we commit a sin, say, driving under the influence, God certainly will forgive us if we sincerely repent. But if we get arrested, we have to pay the price. And if, God forbid, we kill somebody while driving drunk, we have to pay a huge price (although not nearly as huge as the price paid by the innocent victim). By the way, even if we don’t get caught, there still is a steep price to pay for abusing alcohol, in the form of damaged relationships, poor work performance, financial problems, health issues, etc.
Just like King David, our sins can harm us and our descendants. Think of the example I’m using, the irresponsible use of alcohol. We all know families that have been devastated by booze. Not only can it wreck the drinker’s life, it can cause severe problems for his or her family for many generations. The same things can happen with other sins: adultery, dishonesty, theft, laziness, rooting for the Yankees, you name it.
It’s great to know that God will forgive us, no matter what terrible things we’ve done. But it certainly is best not to do those terrible things in the first place. Yes, we still can receive eternal life in Heaven when we repent, but sometimes the consequences of our sin can be Hell on earth, for us and our loved ones and all of society.